Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Update at Shepnerd.Com

Check out this week's update:

Notes from the Shepnerd has moved to a new site.

At the new site you can:

Set up an E-mail subscription
Put the blog in your RSS Reader
Read old archives and get new posts
Visit the new pages -
    Scripture in context
    Meditation for the Week
    Inspiration Station

Sunday, January 8, 2012

 Check out this week's post:  Will the Real Superman Please Stand Up:
Notes from the Shepnerd has moved to a new site.

At the new site you can:

Set up an E-mail subscription
Put the blog in your RSS Reader
Read old archives and get new posts
Visit the new pages -
    Scripture in context
    Meditation for the Week
    Inspiration Station

Check out this week's post

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Spiritual Gluten

Notes from the Shepnerd has moved to a new site.

At the new site you can:

Set up an E-mail subscription
Put the blog in your RSS Reader
Read old archives and get new posts
Visit the new pages -
    Scripture in context
    Meditation for the Week
    Inspiration Station

Check out this week's post - "Spiritual Gluten"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spirituality is ... Rest

Oh I been getting heavy into my reading
Oh I been listening to my favorite song
Well I could never keep down a force-feeding too long
Eat up whatever I want whenever I want

Well you're gonna meet the wall
When you think you've heard it all
And then you got nowhere left to go
Then you're gonna know

Where not to look for freedom
When you're inside your prison
And you're the only warden...
Tell me where to look for freedom
"Where Not To Look For Freedom" by the Belle Brigade

I picked today to write this note because it is my favorite day of Advent - the Day of Joy.  And it is a joy to me and hopefully a joy to you when I tell you the reason for this note after such a long silence is to share two good things.

1.  I have been resting
2.  I am starting anew (not again, but anew) on January 1

The inside view from an amateur rester:

Resting did not come easily to me, so fortunately it came naturally - without my consent.  I decided in June to take a 2 or 3 week break and come back after July 4th. But when I got ready to write, I found I had nothing to say. (Those of you who know me well understand what a shocking and odd thing that would be). So I decided to take a little more break time. I thought of scriptures, themes, ideas...but still - none of it made it to the screen.  July ended and August began. I decided to start back when school started.

"I'll call it a summer vacation," I told myself.  September became October and I realized I was nowhere near ready to return.  I started justifying to myself:
  • Work is really busy
  • I'm doing a webcomic, starting another web outreach in Jan and writing a lot.
  • I'm co-teaching a bible study requiring tons of prep time
  • I'm writing Bible Curriculum
  • I'm learning - It's not just like I'm sitting around.

Finally when I ran out of excuses - I asked God - "What am I doing with this blog? Am I quitting?" and Wise God said, "No, dear. You're resting."  October and November have been much easier on my psyche.

I've been studying, and playing games. I've enjoyed reading other awesome blogs, and times when I didn't read a darn thing.  I've been at the gym, comic conventions, watching netflix documentaries, and staring off into space.  I have not been productive in the slightest in regard to this blog. It's been lovely.

Why wait for our "eternal rest" -- when I can start now?
 But for everything there is a time - and a season -- and the time for rest came to a natural end at the gym a week ago when a thousand Shepnerd writing ideas all flooded my head at once. I asked God, "What am I doing with the blog? Am I starting back?" and Wise God said, "No, dear. You're starting anew." It hit me - "starting" and "back" don't really go together half as well as "starting" and "new".

That's what rest does. It helps make us new.  That's what Christmas does - The Christ child appears in our churches and in our hearts - a baby again. The newborn baby Jesus doesn't come "back" every year. He comes anew.  Forget New Year's Eve -- Christmas is the day we can begin. Praise be to God.

So - Jan 1 - Notes from the Shepnerd will begin with its first new post and be updated on Sundays as per usual. However, I have such a flood of ideas - I would like some help in decision making.  It is great for me as a writer to know what you - the readers - want/like/think/imagine from this blog.  So, I did what any good ShepNERD would do -- I made a 5 question Survey Monkey survey.  Input appreciated, and thankfully received.

 5 questions, anonymous, no one will see the answers but me (and God). Please take a minute (unless you are resting) and give me your thoughts.
And have joy -- not just today - but all days. 
For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
   there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
   and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
   with justice and righteousness
   from that time on and forever.
Isaiah 9:6-7

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Spirituality is...a Bended Knee

Baines:  Have you even bent your knees, Malcolm?.
Malcolm X:  Yes, when I was picking a lock to rob someone’s house
Baines:  Tell Allah that.  (Malcolm tries to kneel but can’t bring himself to do it.) You can grovel and crawl for sin but not to save your soul. Pick the lock, Malcolm. Pick it!
Malcolm X: I want to. God knows I want to.
         “Malcolm X” directed by Spike Lee.

In many of the world's religious practices, the bended knee holds a special place and spiritual value. Whether it is kneeling in prayer, the lotus position, sitting with someone and holding hands or bowing in faith -- there is something powerful about bending your knees. Most people talk about kneeling before God as an act of submission to God, and the physical acknowledgment of who God is in relation to who we are.  But, kneeling or bending the knee has a lot more advantages and purposes than reinforcing the fact that God is bigger than us. Bending your knees offers a host of spiritual lessons.


I don't know about you - but I don't have a problem kneeling down on the floor. The problem I have is getting back up! I am always grateful I don't go to a church that practices kneeling in prayer during its Sunday worship because the moaning and groaning it takes to put me back in standing position would ensure me a seat in the narthex or our choir would begin to repeatedly sing "dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!"  I am simply not flexible.
   "You should try yoga," some helpful person will say.
   "I love yoga," I respond. "Except for all the falling down and screaming."
   "That has never been a part of my yoga class," they say.
   "Then you've clearly never been there with me."
 Flexibility isn't just something good for the body. It's good for the soul too.

Inflexibility is one of the things Jesus strongly opposed when he talked about the Pharisees dedicating themselves to the "letter of the law, but not the spirit."  Too often people have confused worshiping the "One God" with enforcing the "one way" - one way to think, one way to be, one way to know.  Yet the bible describes itself as the "living word" and what do we know about living things? The more flexible they are - the more suited to both surviving and thriving.

Cats:  Our flexible overlords

That is not to say the Bible can "mean anything" - but it does mean that the more we are open to history, learning, listening and growing in biblical understanding the stronger we become in faith and in life. 


 One of the many things I've discovered since I started gardening is the simple fact that if you want to get your hands in the dirt - you've got to put your knees on the ground. I saw plenty of tools at Home Depot designed to let people stand up while working on the garden, but none of them seemed as efficient or as functional as just getting on ground level and getting things done.

Spiritually bending allows us to be closer - closer to people, closer to the problems, closer to the joy, closer to the work.  That proximity gives us the heart and ability to reach out with God's love and God's empowerment and make things happen in the world. Spiritual bending may mean we have to go places unfamiliar to us, or hear things that challenge us. It may mean we have to refresh our minds and hearts in God more frequently to be clear on what God is calling us to do. Almost always - spiritual bending, like physical bending, will develop our muscles and led to a strengthen of our heart and spirit.  My favorite quote on spiritual bending comes from Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer (of the Talmud):

"If you want to pull a friend out of the mud, don't hesitate to get a little dirty."


One of the first things we teach youth workers or people who work with small children is that the best way to instruct them or have a conversation with them is to sit down in a chair or on your knees to be at their eye level. It is much nicer for them to see the adults who are speaking to them than to be talked at from above.However, the benefit is not just for the child - but for the adult too.

Once you get down to that level - you instantly get a sense of how big the world is and how overwhelming it can be. You realize that to spend most of your time looking up at things, not being able to reach things without help, and experiencing most people as a talking set of calves is to be at mercy to the forces around you.  Spiritually bending the knee has the same benefit. You aren't just showing submission to God, but you are reminding your spirit how very big the world is, and how very much we need and long for someone who can reach all the counters, and guide us safely through the things that crowd around us.

There are many postures in faith that give us spiritual abundance. When there is turmoil God wants us to stretch out and rest. When there is injustice, God wants us to stand up and fight. Yet in the day to day relationship we have with God, there is always a time to bend.